Known for his expressive, richly textured, plein air paintings of the Australian landscape, Archibald Prize-winning artist Guido Maestri—also known as Guy Maestri—experiments with materiality, observation and conventions of painting.Read More
Born in Mudgee, a small rural town in New South Wales, the Australian artist grew up surrounded by vast country landscape. His childhood was punctuated, he describes, by spectacles of nature such as the cyclical flooding of the nearby river. An additional childhood source of visual inspiration lies in the mystical landscapes of the picture book The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek which the artist drew inspiration from for more recent works.
Maestri studied at Sydney's Julian Ashton Art School, graduating in 1999, before completing a BFA in Painting in 2002 at The National Art School, Sydney.
Painting across landscape, still life, and portrait genres, and working in sculpture, Guido Masetri's art is highly textural and characterised by thick expressive applications of paint that verge on abstraction.
Despite his persistent landscape fascinations, Maestri's work has also found recognition for his portraiture, winning the Archibald Prize—a national prize for portraiture—in 2009 for Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (2009).
The titular sitter for the painting is a famed Gumatj musician known for singing stories in his native Yolngu tongue. Seeing Gurrumul perform live on New Year's Eve, the artist was inspired to track him down for a portrait. Following a 40-minute sitting, the artist spent over a month building up the image with multiple glazes, listening to Gurrumul's music as he worked to guide each brush stroke.
Maestri said of the work, 'I got a sense of his presence and this determined the nature of the portrait: quiet and strong'.
Maestri's seminal landscape paintings, mostly painted in plein air and worked up in the studio, depict places the artist has visited across Australia. Travelling with fellow painters and friends Ben Quilty and Luke Sciberras, Maestri found encouragement to paint in the field rather than from the studio.
In series such No Man's Land (2011–12), Road Show (2012), and Hill End (2014), Maestri depicts local natural sights, innocuous country roads and rural lanes, painted with sweeping gestural brush strokes of greens and browns.
In series such as Outpost (2014) and Black Gold (2015), painted with a rusty, ochre palette, Maestri more explicitly portrays the traces of human industry on the landscape.
Drawing upon his childhood fascination with dead creatures he encountered, Maestri began painting specimens of roadkill he found and collected on his travels across Australia. These extend the morbid yet informative moments of discovery and also act as a catalogue of wildlife in the area.
Expired and mutilated roadkill, kingfishers, rosellas, dingos and foxes, populate the series On the Road (2014). These are joined by eviscerated wildlife, including koalas in the later Feral (2014–15) and Wreck (2015–16) paintings.
Following a funded trip for New Zealand and Australian artists to Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) battle sites in Turkey for the 2015 travelling exhibition Your Friend the Enemy, Maestri created a series of works depicting avian roadkill standing in for decorated ANZAC soldiers killed in action in World War One.
In 2018 and 2019, Maestri began making paintings that revisit European art historical canon including portraiture by Diego Velázquez, John Singer Sargent, and Vincent van Gogh, and the styles of Cubism and Pointillism.
In 2021, Maestri presented the series Short Stories (2021) in his inaugural exhibition with Yavuz Gallery Sydney. The eight individual large-scale paintings and one diptych shown were built up over regular visits to the New South Wales towns Hill End, Mount Victoria and the artist's hometown of Mudgee.
Painting in portrait format, Maestri dispensed with the naturalistic earthy colours for vivid and bold yellows, pinks and blues. Applying paint directly from the tube at times, to build up blocks and patches of colour he creates simplified and colourful forms akin to illustrations in children's books. The resulting landscapes are at once Australian yet also playful mystical worlds.
Maestri translates the tactile and expressive features of his paintings into painted bronze sculptures, which often take the form of deformed human busts. In the series Facsimiles (2017), Maestri creates brightly coloured and roughly textured versions of busts of iconic figures including Darwin, Pope Joan, and Miracle Mike the headless chicken.
Other busts take the form of self-portraits repeated and altered in form and colour.
Alongside the 2009 Archibald Prize, Guido Maestri has been the recipient of other Australian art awards including the Premier's Plein Air Painting Prize in 2013 and the Kings School Art Prize in 2014.
Guido Maestri has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions.
Solo exhibitions include Stories from Homedale, Mudgee Arts Precinct, Mudgee, New South Wales (2021–22); Short Stories, Yavuz Gallery, Sydney (2021); On Painting, Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane (2019); Facsimiles, Jan Murphy Gallery Presentation at Sydney Contemporary, Sydney (2017); Unearth, Glasshouse Gallery Port Macquarie, Port Macquarie (2016); The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kong (2010).
Group exhibitions include WHO ARE YOU, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2022); Versus Rodin: Bodies across space and time, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2017); This is the End... Guy Maestri, Ben Quilty & Luke Sciberras, Bathurst Regional Gallery, Bathurst (2015).
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2022
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